New Zealand is famous all over the world for boasting some of this planet’s most breathtaking natural scenery. The landscape all over the country is incredibly diverse – from lakes, beaches and coastline to glaciers, volcanos and dramatic alpine terrains.
If you want to take it all in, heading over to Wanaka in the South Island is a pretty good first step. Wanaka literally has it all – natural beauty, epic hiking, mountain biking, skiing in the winter and of course, delicious local cuisine to fuel all of your adventures. Wanaka is also home to Mount Aspiring National Park – a stunning park known to be a hiker’s paradise with both short walks and long hikes featuring mountains, glaciers, river valleys and alpine lakes.
Take a look at the view outside our window when we visited Wanaka a few years back:
Not a bad view to wake up to every morning!
Our trip to Wanaka included the Siberia Experience, which is a perfect way to explore some of the diverse wilderness in Mount Aspiring National Park. The Siberia Experience starts with a flight over to the hiking site, which is an experience in itself! The scenes from the small plane are spectacular and dramatic, featuring jagged alpine valleys and waterfalls. You then land in a sort of grassy clearing which is literally a remote valley up in the mountains.
Heading out on the Siberia Experience!
I found the whole experience quite quiet and peaceful but just exhilarating at the same time, especially since it felt so remote and was so different from my everyday surroundings.
After landing, the adventure side of it then really started for us, as we had to cross the Siberia stream to get to the path. The river was freezing cold and actually reached above the knee with water, following a few days of rain.
Getting ready to cross the river!
After crossing, you have a long(ish) hike (roughly 3 hours) which takes you across open tussock flats and native rainforest. The whole time, you’re completely surrounded by the incredible alpine landscape.
Unfortunately for me, it was during the early part of this hike as I was trekking through some tall grass that I managed to sprain my ankle quite badly! I must have missed a step as I cut through the grass and later found out that it was sprained in three different places. As you can imagine, it was quite painful and I couldn’t actually put much weight on it so unfortunately had to cut our trip short, which was very disappointing! The next step of course was finding a way to get to the hospital – a tough feat given how remote we were. Luckily, an American family had noticed me go down and one of the guys (a firefighter apparently!) carried me to a helicopter that was set to leave shortly. The whole situation was very dramatic and although quite painful at the time, the injury and emergency liftoff just added to the adventure of trekking in the New Zealand wilderness. Although I do deeply regret missing the rest of Siberia Experience, which would have included the remainder of the beautiful hike followed by a boating trip through a glacial mountain river!
Injury or not, exploring a bit of Mount Aspiring National Park and enjoying the (first half!) of the Siberia Experience was truly unforgettable. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a bit of adventure and immersion into breathtaking natural scenery – maybe just wear some supportive shoes and make sure you’ve got an American firefighter with you…just in case…
Over the past year, lockdown has made it very tough to keep up a fitness routine that not only keeps you strong and healthy but is also challenging, fulfilling and fun. As someone whose fitness routine revolved mostly around tough conditioning sessions in the gym, kickboxing, bouldering and the occasional indoor spinning class, I was certainly thrown through a loop in March 2020 when these activities were essentially no longer available to me!
An early saver for me personally was a half-marathon that I had signed up for a few months previously (before lockdown). My boyfriend and I had signed up to run the Wimbledon Half Marathon that May. It would be my first ever proper running race while he had run a full marathon the previous year in Edinburgh. I was very excited, but also quite nervous about training for a long distance event. The training I was used to was based more on short, intense bursts of power like those used in Muay Thai or plyometrics, as opposed to longer, sustained cardiovascular training that required more endurance. In fact, I think the longest I had run up till then was about 10 km! However, I was certainly up for the challenge and we began planning a full 6-week training plan leading up to the half-marathon. I spent a lot of time considering how I would balance half marathon training with my already jam-packed, gym-based fitness routine.
Unfortunately, 2020 had very different plans and not only was it looking like the half marathon would likely be cancelled, but we ended up in separate countries as I spent early lockdown back home in Ontario and he remained with his family in the UK. We decided for the sake of it to just follow the training plan anyway, in case by some chance we might still be able to meet again in May and run the race. Those training runs which started short (2-5 km) and then ramped up (10+ km) became such key parts of my early lockdown. It was a chance to get outdoors and most importantly, it was an opportunity for some consistency in a time that was otherwise incredibly unpredictable and uncertain! I tried to go into it with no expectations and I enjoyed feeling stronger with each run and more able to handle the longer distances. I loved listening to music during the runs, exploring my neighbourhood and feeling a tiny bit like I was achieving something together with my boyfriend even though he was so far away and I wasn’t sure when I’d see him again.
Eventually, May rolled around and we were both still very much in separate countries and the race was now very much cancelled. However, we were both well trained at this point and decided to just run the half marathon anyway. And so we picked a day to do it and set off simultaneously – me in the morning in (a very sunny!) Oakville and him in the afternoon in (a very windy!) Essex, 5 hours difference between us. We actually called each other a few times during the race to check in and my sister even joined (with no training at all – she’s quite the runner!). I ended up running the race in just under 2 hours with a time of 1:53:20 and an average pace of 5:22 min/km – not bad for someone who’s more into sprints and burpees!
I tried some of Endurance Tap’s maple-based energy gels during the run for a boost!
The race through Oakville, tracked on Map My Run!
The half-marathon was a highlight for me in a year that was tough both on the fitness side of things and just in general. One thing I’d say I learnt from it was the benefit of setting yourself challenging but achievable goals and trying to achieve something new. Even though we didn’t get a chance to experience that revved up ‘atmosphere’ so typical of race events, it was almost more special to me in that it was such a personal experience that I got to share with someone I was separated from and that we managed to stick to it in such a bizarre and difficult time.
If you’re away from someone you love right now and want to try and achieve something fitness related (or anything really – doesn’t have to be fitness based!) a race that you both train for together is a good option!
About the Author
Jessica is based out of London, UK and consults early stage businesses on how to raise investment for their companies. She is an avid fitness enthusiast and loves kickboxing, plyometrics, weight training and calisthenics.
Just a little over a year ago I took a spontaneous trip with one of my closest friends, Emily. I flew from London to meet her in Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia. I didn’t know much about Slovenia beforehand but was eager to explore! One of our most memorable days in Ljubljana was our hike around beautiful Lake Bled and the Ojstrica and Osojnica hills.
Ojstrica and Osojnica are perfect for those looking for an easy hike with a beautiful view. The highest point is the viewpoint at Mala Osojnica at only 670 m. The whole trip is roughly an hour, which gives you plenty of time to explore the surrounding bay. The hike itself starts at the edge of a meadow and leads you down an unmarked path into a forest. Following the path through the forest soon brings you up Ojstrica and later to the summit at Mala Osojnica. At one point, we encountered what I like to call the Stairway to Heaven. The summit itself features a beautiful benchtop with a truly breath-taking view of the lake. As you can imagine, we spent awhile at the top taking a few photos and stopping for a rest. The descent is slightly more difficult and can be quite steep – although luckily for us it was dry that day and not particularly slippery.
When our world opens up again, if you’re heading to Slovenia and want to get a little outdoor adventure into your trip – do check out Ojstrica and Osojnica at Lake Bled!
Have any plans for December 13th, 2020? If not, you might consider signing up for The Antarctic Ice Marathon – the southernmost marathon in the world! If by any chance you’ve run a marathon on each of the other 6 continents, you might be one of few to join the ‘7 Continents Marathon Club’.
A formidable physical challenge and incredibly unique opportunity, the Antarctic marathon (42.2 km) occurs at the base of the Ellsworth mountains by Union Glacier, Antarctica. It is comprised of conditions including ice, snow, strong winds and an average temperature (with windchill) of -20ºC. The event occurs at an altitude of 700 metres. To get to the site, runners are flown into Union Glacier Camp from Punta Arenas, Chile. The camp is only accessible by air.
The scenery is no doubt indescribable – here’s a photo taken on a recent trip to the Antarctic Peninsula
So what kind of gear do you need for a challenge of this magnitude? Layered clothing, ski goggles, a facemask and trail runners are highly recommended along with feet/hand warmers. To prepare, some experience running on ice is recommended. This might be doable if you live in a country like Canada, but those who live in temperate climates have been known to train in giant industrial freezers! Other methods for preparation include running on a sandy beach (likely a welcome environment before heading to a place like Antarctica).
And of course, here at Altitude Athletic we can help you prepare for any challenge, on any continent. Our endurance classes are ideal for goals involving challenging environments and variable conditions. Read more about our classes here.
Gentoo penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula.
Sadly, there are no penguins there to cheer you on as no penguins live that far south. This is a shame given their undeniable cuteness!
The event record for men was set at the 2019 marathon by William Hafferty of the United States, who ran the race in an impressive 3:34:12! Meanwhile, Lenka Frycova of the Czech Republic dominated the female race with a time of 4:40:38. Last year, competitors came from all over the world, including Canada, France Denmark, China and Japan.